Tag - sport touring motorcycles

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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…
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Fall Frivolity 2016! 🍂🍁🍂
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Woodstock
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Natchez
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Darien
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Mount Pleasant
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Wanderlust in My Own Backyard
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Voyage to the Sea of Loud Pipes
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Carpe Diem…in My Garage!
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Arriving the Worse for Wear

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been…

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(Originally published in the October 2016 issue of BMW Owners News Magazine.)

Perched in the front seat and frozen in a trance, I peered through the large windshield and watched the lines on the pavement rapidly whir by in rhythm. I could hear the sound of the engine roar as the man driving laid his foot heavy onto the accelerator, along with the occasional ear-piercing wail of a siren. Although faint, I could also make out the voices of two more men riding in the rear of the vehicle calling out numbers to each other, along with the frantic beeping of machines that would heighten the pitch of their short, serious sentences. Squinting through the dark, I looked down and noticed the death grip I had on my tank bag which was perched in my lap, clutching it like it was my last possession in the world. Tank bag? In my lap? This surely was all just a bad dream. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed that when I opened them, I would be back in a bed in the curious little village of Woodstock, New York, with my husband snoring next to me. I wanted to wake up, throw down some coffee, slide into my riding gear, saddle up, and cruise down the road toward the next adventure.

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This particular journey started off with great promise. It was mid-July, and the first leg of the trip was Hamburg, New York, where Das Rally and good friends were number one on my agenda. My husband and I arrived on “rally Wednesday” and enjoyed four excellent days of socializing, volunteering, vendors and seminars, coupled with four nights of camping, fantastic music and a rocking beer garden where I enjoyed meeting so many of you, my fellow BMW MOA members. I must admit, one of my most favorite activities in this world of long-distance travel are the rallies – especially our annual BMW MOA International Rally. My very first was in 2006 in Essex, Vermont, where I was a wide-eyed pillion on my first long-distance ride. It was a magical affair for me then, so it’s no wonder I still feel like a child on Christmas morning upon arrival, each and every July. The Sunday morning of Das Rally, after many hugs and “farewells” to so many friends, we loaded up and hit the road with an agenda full of adventure.

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Following two nice overnight visits with friends in upstate New York and then Montreal, Quebec, it was time to get on with the next item on my list. I needed to fill in some blanks on my “U.S. Brag Map,” and several states along the Eastern Seaboard were in the crosshairs of my target…seven, to be exact. Following a lovely scenic drive-by of Vermont, the first planned destination was Glen, New Hampshire in the White Mountains. The landing pad for that night was at the Bernerhof Inn Bed & Breakfast. Great place! Also, the owner just happens to be a motorcyclist, and has added quite a few nice amenities for fellow riders. I especially loved the large jacuzzi tub in my room, and as a special bonus from “Steve” the owner, the ice bucket which was delivered to our room also contained a nice little bottle of whiskey. There’s nothing like a relaxing bubble bath and stiff drink at the end of a long day of riding (www.BernerhofInn.com). After a fantastic breakfast in the morning, next was a lucrative shopping trip to White Horse Gear in neighboring North Conway, NH, and then destination MAINE!

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I’m not really sure why, but all of my life, I’ve wanted to visit Bar Harbor, Maine. I was born and raised in Utah, and am used to breathtaking scenery, but something has always stirred my soul when I see photos of coastal Maine, especially the shores of Acadia National Park. As we rode onto the island of Bar Harbor, I was absolutely ecstatic, complete with tears in my eyes, that I was finally in a place I had only previously dreamed about. It was all I had expected and more. Acadia, with its glacier-scoured granite peaks and thunderous waves slapping against the enormous rocks lining its jagged shoreline, accompanied with the heavy scent of balsam fir trees, transported my soul to a total state of nirvana. I instantly fell head over heels in love. How was I so lucky as to be riding a motorcycle along such a glorious path of heaven? It was truly amazing!

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The village of Bar Harbor did not disappoint either. I had planned two nights of the itinerary at the Black Friar Inn in the village. It was another great pick for this two-wheeled adventure (www.BlackFriarInn.com).

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“Friar Tom,” the owner of this European-style inn, was very accommodating and ran a very casual, quaint and super fun place. The room was comfy and relaxing, and the tiny pub and restaurant downstairs served amazing eats and drinks. As an added bonus, the Black Friar Inn is very centrally located to the charming village of Bar Harbor, and just a quick walk down the street is a sand bar which is exposed at low tide and allows for a stroll over to the uninhabited Bar Island. I did that too, and experienced another soul-stirring moment during sunset while perched atop a large, ancient piece of driftwood. I look back and believe in my heart that those heavenly moments were my “calm before the storm,” and I’m very thankful for them, as the storm to come was very unkind.

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My departure from coastal Maine was tough…it was like saying “goodbye” to a soulmate. There were tears again, but they were wistful this time. It was time to begin the descent southward and explore the coastline of Massachusetts for the next couple of days. As we trickled through sweet, little villages along the rocky coast that day coming out of Maine, the temperature rose steadily as if it was running a race with the trip meter. Upon arrival into Sandwich, Massachusetts, at the Sandwich Inn (another fantastic, motorcycle-friendly inn with nice amenities – www.InnatSandwich.com), it was close to unbearable outside.

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Following check-in and a hydration and cooling session, we set out to ride to the tip of Massachusetts where the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown (or “P-Town” as the locals refer to it). After a few photos at the Cape Cod National Seashore, we cruised through the crowded, colorful streets of “P-Town” and became convinced that our tired, overheated bodies and motorcycles needed some downtime. We spent the next two days on foot exploring the sights and scenery of Sandwich, established in 1637, as I had hit a “wall” during this segment of the trip with a nasty sinus bug, so wasn’t feeling quite as travel-hungry as normal. It was my first time on the road with an “ailment,” but I wasn’t about to call it quits. I did rearrange our itinerary a bit to take advantage of more relaxing and a less tight schedule. I had to forego a couple of fun side trips hanging in the wings, but little did I know how important that itinerary change would be in the end.

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After a departure out of Sandwich, Massachusetts that Monday morning, I was excited to collect my trophies of Rhode Island and Connecticut for my brag map, which I did within the first few hours on the road. The day was super hot, and after several arguments with the Garmin which wanted to take us straight through the streets of bustling cities, we decided to chug it northeast to get out of the traffic. At our lunch stop that afternoon, I had an epiphany for accommodations that evening – why not get out of the heat and stop a little early that Monday to pay a visit to Woodstock, New York? How cool would that be? Little did I know how that decision would literally be an epiphany.

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We arrived late afternoon and checked into the super hip White Dove Rockotel (theWhiteDoveRockotel.com). This inn was one cool little joint. All the rooms were very tastefully decorated in themes of famous bands/entertainers from the famous “Woodstock” of 1969. We booked the “Garden Room” which celebrated Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. All rooms are stocked with turn-tables and vintage vinyl, so after unpacking the bikes, taking a bubble bath in an antique clawfoot tub, ordering a New York-style pizza for delivery and getting settled, I morphed from Fashionista to D.J..

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We were having a large time enjoying the ambience of Woodstock, and I was feeling quite satisfied with our spontaneous detour. The experience was groovy and as full of “love, peace and happiness” as you could get…and then in the blink of an eye, it was dark and I was sitting in a trance peering out the large windshield, praying I was having a nightmare and would wake up soon. Sadly, it was all real. I was riding in the passenger’s seat of an ambulance while the men in the back of the unit were working hard to keep my husband alive. Right there in that fantastically quirky room in Woodstock, where we were singing along to our favorite oldies and enjoying downtime together, my husband had a heart attack.

My memory of that fateful evening is still spotty at times, although I’ll never forget the 40-mile ambulance ride to Poughkeepsie, New York, where they were able to insert two stents into my husband’s blocked artery and eventually send us on our way back to South Carolina. There were many details in between that had to be attended to like getting our luggage, gear, bikes and ourselves back home. We got by with a lot of help from our friends. And everyone we came in contact with all along the way were so kind. As the saying goes, and to now I can attest, “life changes in an instant.” I have been grateful in every way that my trusty sidekick/hubby/mechanic/photographer is still here and is thriving after that horrific scare in Woodstock. For days after, we thought through all of the “what-ifs,” and the scariest one by far – what if we had been riding when this happened? I truly believe my epiphany earlier that Monday was certainly some sort of intuitive revelation, and we are very fortunate that we acted upon it. Time has passed, and we laugh about it now – I guess crazy things happen in Woodstock, but, oh “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” 💋

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Fall Frivolity 2016! 🍂🍁🍂

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How in the world did August, September and October 2016 already arrive and speed away, leaving really great memories in their dust? It’s true that “time flies when you’re having fun.” Honestly, life has been throwing so much opportunity at this Fashionista this past three months that it’s wearing her Iron Butt out…but I’m certainly not complaining! Now that riding season has slowed for a brief respite, I’ve got so much to say and will be posting much more information in the coming weeks. But for now, I’m letting the pictures tell some stories! 💋

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Woodstock

The White Dove Rockotel
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148 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498; 845.306.5419

This inn is one cool little joint nestled in the super hip town of Woodstock. A drive down the main street of this historical village, where the most epic music festival of all time took place just up the road at Max Yasgur’s farm, still sends out a vibe that whispers peace, love and music.

After carefully browsing through several properties available in Woodstock, I chose The White Dove Rockotel based on the all-around character of this accommodation. All the rooms were very tastefully decorated in themes of famous bands/entertainers from the famous “Woodstock” of 1969. I booked the “Garden Room” which celebrated Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

All rooms are stocked with turn-tables and vintage vinyl, so after unpacking the bike, taking a bubble bath in an antique clawfoot tub (using the White Dove Rockotel’s stocked signature soap), ordering a New York-style pizza for delivery and getting settled, I morphed from Fashionista into D.J.

The experience was groovy and as full of “love, peace and happiness” as you could get, and the fantastically quirky rooms at The White Dove Rockotel made the experience of staying in this epic town totally over the top.

The rooms are also equipped with iPads which act as Concierge during your stay, directing you to great area restaurants and services, as well as a direct line to the innkeepers in case you need their assistance. Motorcycle parking is easy and convenient.

Unique. Hip. Stocked. I highly recommend a visit to Woodstock and a stay at The White Dove Rockotel to materialize the spirit of the “Aquarian Exposition” of 1969 which changed the history of Rock and Roll forever.

Click here for more info:

The White Dove Rockotel

Natchez

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221 Linton Avenue, Natchez, MS 39120; 601.653.9292
Website: starlingsrest.com

Natchez, Mississippi which sits right along the mighty Mississippi is a fantastic place to visit and explore. When I visit Natchez in October 2015, Starling’s Rest is the B&B I chose for my stay there. It was situated in a charming neighborhood full of stately Antebellum homes decorated with flowering bushes and colossal oak trees draped in Spanish Moss. This very lovely inn was the easiest on my wallet, yet ended up being a big winner in my accommodations book. Motorcycle parking was the only challenge I faced at the Starling’s Rest, as the parking area behind the house includes negotiating two narrow, sharp turns and then up a steep driveway to a flat spot. It might be better to find a nice spot on the much flatter street beside Starling’s Rest. Once I was safely parked for the night and my saddlebags were unloaded, I entered into this fantastic historic home and was delighted with the gorgeous antique furniture in every room and lovely artwork that adorned the walls.

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The Starling’s Rest had a distinct “welcome home” feeling. It didn’t hurt that the kitchen, which was open to guests, had a beer cooler stocked full of an amazing assortment of craft brews. After a long day’s ride, that sight was an oasis, for sure. My room was also stocked with a large, plentiful snack basket that had an empty Mason jar in the center. The Starling’s Rest owner operates on an “honor system,” and asks guests to put a fair price on items consumed and leave money in the jar accordingly. Great psychology there. My favorite part about this convenience – once the motorcycle was parked, there was no need to travel back out for a snack or beverage run.

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The bedroom and bathroom were very sizable and comfortable, and after a fun night exploring this fabulous historic town, I enjoyed a beautiful night’s sleep. The next morning was a very casual, Continental-type breakfast, which suited me just fine as there were many items available. Most importantly, the coffee was delicious! And, you just can’t beat the price here for all you get. Starling’s Rest Bed and Breakfast is highly recommended! 💋

Darien

The Open Gates Bed & Breakfast
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301 Franklin Street; Darien, Georgia 31305; 912.437.6985

For years traveling south on I-95, I have seen the exit signs to Darien, Georgia. I never knew until I did some research that Darien is actually a small town off the beaten path worth a visit. About 50 miles south of Savannah, this lovely town has had a very eventful history (worthy of a Google search), and today it is a fishing village full of character and historical properties to explore. The Open Gates Bed & Breakfast, a circa 1876 home located in an historic square, has five rooms to choose from. It is within an easy walking distance to the waterfront area where there are several restaurants and a lot to explore. This B&B gave a great all-around experience during a motorcycling trek I took of the South in October 2015.

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After a stroll waterfront and a delicious seafood meal, I enjoyed a relaxing night cap in the comfortable living room of The Open Gates, complete with some really great jazz music playing in the background. Following a dreamy sleep, I arose to the smell of fresh coffee brewing and breakfast being prepared. The innkeeper and accomplished gourmet chef, Zach, prepared his award-winning “Sweet Stuffed Crepe Cigars” along with bacon, sausage, fruit and sweet breads. Certainly a meal fit for royalty – even if she rode in on BMW a motorcycle. I wanted to explore the village after breakfast, so Zach extended my checkout time and allowed me to casually explore the fishing village and historical areas on foot for much of the morning. Zach and his wife Carrie are extremely great hosts that extend much Southern hospitality, and I highly recommend a visit to The Open Gates Bed & Breakfast to enjoy all this young couple has to offer. 💋

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Mount Pleasant

Old Village Post House Inn

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101 Pitt Street, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; 843.388.8935

The Old Village Post House website describes their property as “a neighborhood tavern and inn nestled in Mt. Pleasant’s historic Old Village. In feel and decor, it’s as comfortable as your best friend’s home.” They have hit the bullseye on that statement! I stayed at this property to gather material for a story in the BMW Owners News magazine (July 2016). The general manager, Katie Hajjar, was overly accommodating and made sure my stay was completely impeccable. I stayed in the Maverick Suite, 3rd floor – WOW, what a gorgeous and comfortable set-up! I enjoyed a separate living area for sprawling out, and consequently, ended up being an inspirational setting in which to get some writing done.

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The bedroom was just as amazing and spacious…I got the best night’s sleep I have had in months.

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And, I’m a huge pushover for accommodations that offer up cool, little details. The Old Village Post House is one of those places. After a day of riding in the hot sun, Katie made sure the ice bucket in my room was full along with two bottles of water for this thirsty traveler. And just steps outside my door was an espresso/coffee machine with all the necessary accoutrements offered up.

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I also dined at the Old Village Post House restaurant, which was on the first floor, and was treated like royalty…be sure to check out that review below! This property is top-notch, and a great destination for the long-distance motorcyclist as well as all travelers in search of a superb experience. (Be sure to mention you saw this review on the Fashionista’s website for a discount!) 💋


Old Village Post House Inn Restaurant

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101 Pitt Street, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; 843.388.8935

My stay at the Old Village Post House Inn was absolutely fantastic, but pairing that experience with dinner at the downstairs restaurant put this property on my top five list! I was greeted by a very pleasant and classy team of restaurant staff. From the hostess to my waiter to the chef, my customer service experience was outstanding! THIS “welcome” was on my table…

The food was absolutely exceptional. They have a regular menu as well as their evening specialties. I chose my starting cocktail off of their special menu – the Peach Mule – delicious and refreshing! Through the suggestion of my amazing waiter, Jordan, I tried the Fried Green Tomatoes (with pimento cheese, remoulade and watercress) which were also on the evening’s special menu. What a heavenly appetizer! And then for my main entree, I ordered the Sea Scallops from the regular menu which came with cauliflower custard, pea tendrils and parsley butter…OMG! It’s hard to cook a scallop to perfection, but this chef nailed it. Paired with a delicious Cabernet, this meal was ambrosial. I now have a new grading scale for scallop entrees, with this meal being the measuring stick.

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The chef was overly accommodating and sent out two different, complimentary tastings to try. One was a traditional Southern Chow-Chow (sweet and tangy relish) and the other a sampling of “Jimmy Red Grits.” These grits are delicious, and also have a story – a traditional native American corn, these heirloom grits from James Island were near extinction (once stolen by bootleggers) and are now making their way back on the tables of a handful of fine dining restaurants in the Lowcounty area. I felt grateful to have tried something so rare. My entire experience at this property was one I will always treasure and talk about. The Fashionista HIGHLY recommends a visit to the Old Village Post House Inn!!! You will not be disappointed! 💋

Wanderlust in My Own Backyard

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(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – July 2016.)

I am a traveler, I am an adventurer…both to the truest extreme. I often close my eyes and ponder the sights, scenery, and people in distant places that are on my horizon of travel plans. The search for unfamiliar roads leading to new adventures is ongoing. Yes, I’ve pretty much had a bad case of “wanderlust” all my life. The curious part about that to those who have known me for over ten years is that now my wanderlust is only extremely gratifying when I’m on two wheels. Go figure, but I know I’m not alone here in that sentiment.

One day as I was trekking around the place I call “home” and immersing myself in the historical aura that permeates the air here in Conway, South Carolina, I realized the hidden gem that I was unintentionally hiding from my fellow BMW riders. And with that thought, two other noteworthy areas near Conway came to mind – Georgetown and Charleston. Isn’t it funny how we look so far into the distance to find interesting places to visit, yet take for granted the treasures right in our own backyard? So, allow me to share my little piece of paradise…

CONWAY
Known to the locals as “Rivertown,” and the seat of Horry County (pronounced O-ree – it’s the largest county east of the Mississippi), Conway was founded in 1732 as the village of Kingston. The downtown historical area is located along the banks of the winding, picturesque Waccamaw River, which is lined with large and very old native oak and cypress trees, draped heavily in long strands of antique Spanish Moss. This city feels ancient and sweet, still intact with all its Southern splendor. The people are friendly and the offerings for visitors are plentiful.

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Conway is approximately 55 miles from Interstate 95 (Exit 170), and the main thoroughfare to “Rivertown” is a four-lane highway (Hwy. 501) that is fairly scenic and flows well for the most part. Accommodations once you arrive in Conway are not abundant, but I must recommend one choice that will surely add to your experience of old Rivertown. The Cypress Inn is located directly in the heart of the splendor of this town (16 Elm Street, www.acypressinn.com – a discount will be extended by mentioning this article). Overlooking the Waccamaw River, this B&B has charm and location as its strengths. Motorcycle parking is easy, and once you’re settled, put on your walking shoes and enjoy the plentiful offerings all very near.

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The Riverwalk is a MUST. It is approximately one mile total in length, and I promise you will find yourself snapping photos every few steps. As you make your way to historic downtown Conway, you will find many quaint shops and dining options, most of which are located in charming historic buildings. I must mention my Conway “office” where I write many of my articles for this column – Rivertown Roasters on Main (337 Main Street). If you enjoy really good coffee like me, be sure to stop in and have a cup, enjoy some local baked goods, and see where the magic happens!

Whatever your appetite and style, I have some great recommendations sampled many times by yours truly. Located riverside, Bonfire – touted as a “Smokin’ Taqueria” (110 Main Street), is quite a gem! It’s actually my favorite casual spot to dine and features delicious “fusion” food (BBQ + tacos), with an unpretentious and lively atmosphere and gorgeous views of the Waccamaw River. When I’m in the mood for something a little more upscale, with a classy-casual atmosphere, The Rivertown Bistro (1111 3rd Avenue) is my choice. The menu is filled with seafood entrees prepared “Lowcountry” style, but with a truly clever approach, as well as delicious cuts of beef, pork and poultry. Looking for a nice lunch/Sunday brunch spot? Crady’s Eclectic Cuisine on Main boasts an “eclectic menu and atmosphere that has earned accolades in national publications such as, Southern Living Magazine.” Thirsty for a nice craft beer? The Crafty Rooster, just doors down from the Rivertown Bistro (1125 3rd Avenue), has been one of my favorite spots from the day I moved here. It has a classic sports bar/college vibe, with a large blackboard menu full of craft brew drafts from all over the country. How about a nice glass (or bottle) of wine in a classy-casual setting? Located in the historic Quattlebaum House (c. 1890), Encore (225 Kingston Street), “where the traditional encounters the unexpected,” is a lovely two-story shop full of fabulous selections of wine, craft beer, gifts, estate items, home interior furnishings…and you can even purchase a floral arrangement to go! On Fridays (seasonal) beginning at 6:00 pm, Encore hosts their evening under the stars with live music and your favorite libation. The historic district is full of many quaint offerings.

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The best part about a visit to my roost here in Conway is that it’s a park-and-walk destination. A stop by the Conway Chamber of Commerce will provide you with loads of information, and when you visit, be sure to let me know…I’d love to meet you for a meal or coffee and hear all about your wanderlust!

GEORGETOWN
Located 45 miles south of Conway via a quiet, scenic two-lane highway (US 701S to Front Street), is the city of Georgetown. It was founded in 1729, although some historians believe it was the first European settlement in North America (c.1526). Situated along the waterfront where Winyah Bay, the Waccamaw River and the Great Pee Dee River meet and then connect to the Atlantic Ocean, Georgetown remains the second largest seaport in South Carolina. There are several little shops, museums and restaurants dotting Front Street and along the waterfront, and old southern homes and mansions can be found throughout the neighboring streets.

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I suggest riding the 45 miles from Conway and then enjoying a couple of hours in Georgetown. My go-to for a great lunch along the waterfront is the Big Tuna Raw Bar (807 Front Street). The seafood is fresh, local and delicious, and the atmosphere is super laid-back. Also a visit to the Georgetown Rice Museum (633 Front Street) is highly recommended.

After departing from Front Street, head south on Highway 17. Once you travel over the bridge near the steel mill, you will want to watch for a left turn onto South Island Road. As you glide down this two-lane, sweeping road, you will be transported to an area that is highly concentrated with Lowcountry rice plantations. Approximately 7.5 miles down the road, watch for Estherville Drive on your right. The scenery on this road oozes the old South from its pores. You will come to a stop sign (right turn only) and find the area chock-full of old rice plantations (N. Santee River Road). As you gently cruise down this road (it can be a little rough in some areas), be sure to take note of the many plantations, mansions and old structures still standing. The last time I traveled this road and was crossing one of the canals used for irrigating the rice fields back in the day, I happened to look up and saw a majestic Bald Eagle fly right overhead. Honestly at that moment, the experience couldn’t have been any more meaningful.

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As you exit N. Santee River Road back onto US 17 South, Hopsewee Plantation will be on your immediate right (www.Hopsewee.com). This is a MUST SEE! I visited Hopsewee recently on my R1100 RS to be sure it was accessible. The road is dirt, as is the parking lot, but I had no problems navigating, whatsoever. This plantation was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and has only been owned by five families since 1740. Exploration of the grounds and then the mansion (worth the small fee) was breathtaking, and I highly recommend a visit to The River Oak Cottage Tea Room on premise for a lovely lunch or an authentic “Full Southern Tea.” I enjoyed the Full Southern Tea while visiting, as it truly compliments the experience of touring through the Lowcountry South. The owner and gourmet chef, Raejean Beattie, was an impeccable hostess, and spent time answering my questions and making me feel right at home.

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Exiting out of Hopsewee, take a right turn back onto US 17 South towards Charleston. The ride to your next suggested destination will be approximately 45 miles on a four-lane highway, pecked with plenty of saltwater marshes to admire in passing. My favorite thing to do while crossing the marshes and tributaries on the way to the Charleston area is to breathe deeply…that thick, salt water air is absolutely intoxicating!

CHARLESTON
While the city of Charleston is brimming with lovely, historic Bed & Breakfasts and other accommodation choices (prices are steep!), the thoroughfares in the “Holy City” are full of vehicles, pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages and Pedi-cabs making their way through the narrow streets that wind though this charming, and extremely busy, peninsula. I strongly suggest a detour to Old Village in Mount Pleasant, just across the Charleston Harbor, where there is an extremely, over-the-top, lovely accommodation available – Old Village Post House Inn (oldvillageposthouseinn.com – mention this article for a discount). The rooms are extraordinary, but maintain a very historical and quaint feel, with the surrounding neighborhood of Old Village holding the same special character. The staff is very friendly and gracious, and parking is simple around the perimeter of the building. During my stay at this wonderful property, my two-wheeled steed stayed safe, and even enjoyed being the subject of several photographs from passers-by.

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Once you’re parked, unloaded and you’ve enjoyed a little downtime in your well-appointed room, a sightseeing trip to Charleston is as easy as a very short Uber ride to the super-convenient Water Taxi (charlestonwatertaxi.com – $10/all day) at the Charleston Harbor Marina that will deliver you one block from the City Market, where you can begin your day in this distinguished city steeped strong in Southern history. The water taxi ride across the harbor is very relaxing, and a great way to get some really nice photographs of the many sights in the area. You may even get an escort by a dolphin or two!

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Upon arrival at the City Market, I recommend a horse-drawn carriage tour to start your experience. The tour will provide a worthwhile glimpse of the city and history before setting out on foot to explore this grand dame of the South. You could literally spend several days exploring Charleston and not see, taste and experience it all. I would suggest at least two full days here.

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Fashionista recommendations? My favorite “go-to” restaurants on the peninsula include: Poogan’s Porch (72 Queen Street); Hank’s Seafood Restaurant (10 Hayne Street); Coast Bar and Grill (39-D John Street); Stars Restaurant – Rooftop & Grill Room (495 King Street); Magnolias (185 E. Bay Street); Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (476 King Street); and Jestine’s Kitchen (251 Meeting Street). My favorite adult beverage stop is The Rarebit for a refreshing, Moscow Mule. It’s the best I’ve ever had, and during Happy Hour, they are only $5! (474 King Street). Also be sure to stroll along The Battery where the grand Southern mansions are plentiful and where you will spy Fort Sumter across the harbor. This was where the first shot was fired beginning The Civil War.

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Once you’ve gotten your fill of Charleston for the day and head back to Old Village of Mount Pleasant, be sure to have dinner at least once at the restaurant in Old Village Post House Inn. It was one of my top dining experiences, to date. You won’t be disappointed! The chef is top-notch, and very clever with his dishes. After a fantastic meal and following an amazing day touring around Charleston, you can simply walk out the door and give your mighty two-wheeled steed one last check and then saunter up the stairs to your immaculate room for the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while. You’ll be sure to dream of the stately antebellum mansions, the gas-lit lanterns burning endlessly, church steeples dotting the skyline, ancient cobblestone streets, and a bygone era that remains preserved within the perimeter of the picturesque peninsula of Charleston.

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While gathering my thoughts to begin this article, I looked up the word “wanderlust,” and the definition states that it is “a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.” Pretty much sums me up. But it also occurred to me that by keeping the treasure in my backyard to myself, I have, in essence, blocked someone else’s wanderlust opportunity. How rude of me! So, I leave you with this proverb: “A joy that’s shared is a joy made double.” Enjoy, and travel on! 💋

(Note: Upon departure out of Charleston, I-26 is the fastest way out, and eventually crosses I-95, I-20, I-85 and I-40, although there are many scenic backroads to depart from as well. And a trip to my trio of treasures would be best enjoyed in Spring and Fall. For additional information, feel free to email me: debgasque@gmail.com)

Voyage to the Sea of Loud Pipes

(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – May 2016.)

I awoke early that morning in March, and after a few blinks to get my eyes open and focused, I spent a few moments easing my brain into consciousness via a quick peek at my social media accounts. I didn’t sleep much the night before out of pure excitement for my first ride of the 2016 season, a ride that had a very mystical quest involved. With my brain sputtering, I proceeded straight for the coffee pot, and after savoring several cups of my favorite dark brew, continued with the preparations of getting my two-wheeled steed road-ready.

Pulling out of the driveway that morning, with a fresh sun peeking above the horizon, my playlist shuffled up a song that gave me chills and made me smile – Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” It was the essence of this trip, and I sang out the line “let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.” You see, I was heading for the 75th Annual Daytona Bike Week.

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You may ask, “why?” Well, because I am a true adventurer. I decided to take this trip to experience the unknown, to submerge myself into this pool of diverse culture that was 75 years old, and from what I have heard and read is loud, rogue and scraggly around the edges. I ask you – “why not?” Just once, I wanted to wade through this vast sea of loud pipes and come away with an understanding of how another motorcycle culture enjoys their two-wheeled gatherings. So, I twisted that throttle and set sail on my voyage.

It was a “slab” kind of day with the mission of arriving early into my homebase for the long weekend. I was staying with friends who reside in Ormond Beach, just up the coast from Daytona…close enough to the action, but far enough away to sleep peacefully at night. (These particular friends also ride a Harley Davidson Tri Glide and were going to be my guides through the weekend expedition.) As I coasted down Interstate 95, I passed trailer after trailer after trailer full of bikes. I also received several “thumbs-up” from the drivers pulling those trailers. It made me giggle wondering if they knew there was a Fashionista under all of that gear…one with an Iron Butt, no less. At one stop, I was little perplexed when I overhead a couple discussing the fact that they didn’t know BMW made motorcycles. Yikes…

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Following a safe arrival to my friends’ home, a fun happy hour and a delicious meal, it was off for some rest for the big weekend ahead. The next morning, after a casual start with good coffee and even better conversation, we departed from the harbor for our sightseeing cruise with a plan of starting the day with a ride on the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail (Old Dixie Highway). It was spectacular! We rode down a gorgeous two-lane road covered in an ancient canopy of live oak trees and native Florida palms and greenery with not much traffic at all. We stopped midway through to view the Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins, a sugar and rum distillery, which dates back to the early 1800s. Following that stop, we rode through more canopied roads and peaceful saltwater marshes full of statuesque birds fishing for their meals. So far, this Bike Week wasn’t feeling too rogue and scraggly at all.

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As we made our way south that afternoon towards a much-needed lunch stop and closer to the mighty mothership of Bike Week, a low hum could be heard in the distance which grew to a loud rumble as we drew near. We made it…we were finally entering the sea of loud pipes. Of course, large schools of Harleys were bountiful, but there were many other fish in that sea as well – Indian, Victory, Buell, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Triumph, and the list went on. I squealed with delight when I saw a rare sight – a fellow BMW rider or two. Much like sea urchins, we were just “there” clinging to the walls while the dizzying masses swam by.

Our lunch destination was the Brickyard Lounge and Grill. Clearly it was a locals’ biker bar, but I must say they serve THE best cheeseburger I have ever come across, by far. (It was so good, I stopped in the next day for another!) With my body full of hearty protein, I was ready to experience the true biker scene – Main Street, Daytona. It was an intentional plan to visit Bike Week during the first weekend of this 10-day event, as the crowds were fairly light, and traffic wasn’t too terribly clogged. Otherwise, a trip down Main Street would have certainly meant an hour or more of fender to fender traffic and a definite overheat of my ’94 R1100 RS. I quickly learned that a ride down Main Street automatically enters you into the “parade,” like it or not.

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Main Street, Daytona, is the true center of the sea of loud pipes. It’s lined with smoky, mischievous biker bars; big chrome-covered bikes parked curiously close to each other; and tight crowds dressed in denim, black accoutrements, leather, big boots, tattoos, piercings, bandannas and really badass expressions on their faces. Above all, I found myself wondering why the angry faces. I can certainly handle personal choices of fashion, but I truly pondered the rough demeanors on seemingly very nice people.

After taking a couple of parade loops myself and then parking the bike, I stood in the crowd to watch the other two-wheeled machines making their way down the line. The sights were incredible…there were so many motorcycles that were astonishing, very impeccable rides. But then there were the sights that really got your attention: giant Boss Hogs that seemed incredulous to me; stretched out “Big Wheels,” as I called them; a large pack of young, super silly guys riding mopeds; a biker chick in a neck-to-boot neon pink netted bodysuit, with not much underneath; some strange rolling cheeseburger on three wheels; and an old dude wearing a crusty, ancient helmet riding an antique BMW who made three passes in my short time there…I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. At some point while watching the tide of riders on display, I found two of my fellow campadres in the crowd – Iron Butt Association members. I approached them with a huge smile and a hug. They were a little taken aback by my approach, but smiled big when they realized we were teammates in the long-distance world. Very cool. We were kindred souls in the waves of that vast sea.

I enjoyed a great dose of the biker culture that evening and decided to head for safe harbor, with my captains leading the way on their pretty little 3-wheeled Harley. I was quickly beginning to realize that although all of us motorcyclists share the love of riding, our particular pools where we gather and bob around together are quite different. And that’s okay!

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The next day was the most exciting to me, personally. I drove my sweet “Henrietta” on the beaches of Daytona. There I was, riding seaside with nothing but sand and tidal pools between me and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Very surreal, indeed, and a highlight in my motorcycling history. Later that day was an exciting visit to a Supercross race with my buddies where I enjoyed a long evening watching dirt bike races at the famous Daytona International Speedway. As I made my way home that evening, feeling like a jellyfish bobbing amongst the vast sea of loud pipes who continue cruising late into the night, I realized that although I had ultimate respect for this culture of bikers, it just wasn’t for me. The lifestyle of cruising, stopping, cruising, stopping, cruising, stopping – not my deal. I’m definitely a long-distance style girl!

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The following morning, I pointed my bow towards home and set sail…swimming quietly and gracefully upstream on my trusty Beemer as the mass of loud pipes were fin to fin streaming downstream. I spent much of the ride homeward reflecting on my voyage and the experiences. And suddenly, there it was again…a random shuffle of my iTunes playlist, and Van Morrison’s voice was again piping out the line “let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic…” Chills and my smile immediately followed, and somehow I knew it was a sign. I, indeed, had traveled to the mystical sea of loud pipes with soul and spirit flying…and my soul and spirit drifted away with much more than I had ever imagined…an amazing experience that taught me that I am just fine being a Fashionista with an Iron Butt riding her BMW. 💋

Carpe Diem…in My Garage!

(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – March 2016. Please visit the online copy of this issue for full spread/pictures: BMW Owners News – March 2016)

Most of us have heard the inspirational saying at one time or another – “Carpe Diem” (seize the day). As Eleanor Roosevelt thoroughly explained it: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

One frigid day this past January, while trying to keep the winter “blahs” at bay, I sat through my morning coffee yearning for a “newer and richer experience.” I wanted to learn something remarkable and functional. I wanted to color outside of the lines. I desperately wanted my being to be placed way outside of the box. As I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could do to excite and enhance the stalemate of a day that was ahead of me, I had an epiphany. I suddenly recalled all the ribbing I had gotten over last year’s riding season from a few close friends about the lack of my ability to do my own motorcycle maintenance. My favorite comment – “You may be the Fashionista and can drive thousands of miles across the country in a few days, but can you change your own oil?” That was it! There was my answer! That January day, I was determined to join the small world of women who wrench.

So off I marched to the wondrous “man cave,” where my husband was in deep hibernation, and shouted “Carpe Diem!” He jumped, sighed and with a pensive look on his face asked, “what are you up to now?” He knew my winter antics were in play again…scheming and dreaming. Following the big reveal of how I wanted to learn simple motorcycle maintenance, he smiled and was actually very proud of my decision. After a brief consultation, it was decided that an oil change and tire pressure check would be a great starting point. I bundled up and took my two-wheeled steed out for a quick, brisk ride to warm and circulate the engine oil. Upon returning, and after the engine case was cool enough to touch so as not to burn my hands, we began the lesson. I am sharing my instructions and photos in order to empower others out there who also may want to learn some light maintenance. (Note: I put on some rubber gloves so as not to end up with oil-stained hands and fingernails – that would not be Fashionista-worthy!)

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1. Unscrew the oil cap. This allows air in to allow the oil to drain out freely.

2. Place a container under the engine case to catch the used oil. Make sure it’s large enough to hold all of the old oil that will drain out (my ’94 R1100 RS holds approximately 3.5 liters).

3. Locate the oil drain plug under the engine case (right side on my motorcycle).

4. Using a wrench that fits your particular oil plug, carefully unscrew the plug (check your M.O.M. – Motorcycle Owner’s Manual – for specifics on tools and oil capacity). As the oil begins to gush out into the holding container, try to keep ahold of the plug so you won’t have to fish it out of that black, gooey mess.

5. Allow the old oil to drain completely out. It will take several minutes.

6. Clean your oil plug with a rag or paper towel and then wrench it back into place when the oil has stopped flowing. (Make sure you also have the small washer that fits on the oil plug.)

7. Check your M.O.M. to find out where your oil filter is located (left front bottom on my motorcycle), and with your oil waste container in place, use your oil filter wrench to remove the filter and allow this area to drain. Try to catch the old oil filter with your hand as it’s exiting so as not to make an oily mess all over your workspace.

8. Once it has completely drained, use a few paper towels to thoroughly wipe out old oil and black sediment in the recessed area where the filter sits. Here are two types of filters that can be used for my bike. (I will use the one on the left.)

9. Pour a bit of oil into the filter (about 3/4 full) and using your finger, lube the rubber seal on the filter with a bit of oil, as well.

10. Screw in the new oil filter with your hands until it feels tight, then tighten it about another 1/4-1/2 rotation with your wrench (you want it snug with a proper fit).

11. Add fresh oil with a funnel (again, check your M.O.M. for type and amount).

12. Be sure to pour in small increments and allow a few moments. Then check your oil level so as not to overfill! The level of oil should be level with the red dot in the center of the sight glass located just in front of the engine case on the left side of your motorcycle.

13. Replace the oil cap!

14. Start your engine and let the bike run for a minute or two in order to circulate the oil. Shut the engine off, wait about 5 minutes, and then check the level again. Add additional oil until it is again level with the red dot in the sight glass. Replace your oil cap, and you’re all set!

15. Now, tires! Get your tire gauge and air source ready. (Your most accurate reading will be when your tires are cool.)

16. Unscrew your valve cap and check the pressure in your tires using the gauge. The correct amount of pressure will again be determined by checking your M.O.M. Also note that a change in the outside temperature will affect your tire pressure, as well as any added weight on the bike (passenger, camping gear, etc.), so be sure to check them right before you’re ready for departure.

17. Using your air source, put in the needed amount of air, and then recheck the pressure one more time to be sure the amount is correct.

18. Recap the valve stem, and you’re ready to go!

The ice is melting, the air is warming and we are all busy mapping out our adventures for the new riding season to come. I challenge you to take a time-out, step into your garage and shout “Carpe Diem!” Then get those gloves on and “experience to the utmost”…“without fear,” some simple wrenching on your two-wheeled steed. Hey, if The Fashionista can handle it, so can you! 💋 💋

Arriving the Worse for Wear

(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – February 2016.)

It finally happened, and boy, was it a doozy. Last September as I was riding out of Richmond, Virginia, I was caught in a deluge of rain…for hours. I had been warned before by other seasoned motorcyclists – “Just wait until the day you have to ride in some REAL rain…” I scoffed at the thought. I had ridden in rain before. In fact, I once rode through a huge thunderstorm coming out of Jacksonville, Florida, complete with lightning bolts hitting so close that the hair on my arms stood up. I had ridden in drizzles at night, on the Interstate, on country roads, and even on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. So what? Big deal. Well, that September day, I was completely humbled. When I pulled into the hotel for the night after hours of riding in heavy rain, I called “uncle.” It was miserable. All of my waterproof and water-resistant gear had been breached. I was officially a “drowned rat” and feeling the worse for wear. For that fleeting moment, it truly made me question the reason I had detoured to Richmond to begin with. But isn’t it true that often times in life, the detours bring us to new discoveries?

Back in July while at the MOA International Rally, I met a super nice guy and fellow BMW ON contributor, Damun Gracenin, who put me in touch with his friend, Laura Smith (MOA #190823). Laura had begun the process of starting a women’s riding apparel company, which of course immediately got my attention. It’s no secret that we lady motorcyclists suffer greatly from the limited selection and sizes of women’s riding gear, and with my passion for fashion, I’m constantly on the prowl for something safe AND swanky. I was immediately curious and needed to know more about Laura Smith and her partner/husband, Scott Saunders and what they were up to. After a couple of chats via email and phone, I decided I needed to plan a visit to Richmond.

So that September after departing the BMW Finger Lakes Rally in Watkins Glen, NY, I figured why not drop down to Richmond and visit Laura and Scott at their newly-purchased building where their company, Worse for Wear, was beginning to take shape. I wanted to see for myself what they were planning and how they were going to move forward. As I rolled through an industrial area in Richmond, I spotted their bright yellow, three-story building from blocks away. Laura met me in the parking lot with a huge smile, and I immediately felt a sense of kindred sisterhood. It doesn’t hurt that we ride the same ’94 R 1100 RS – hers red, mine pearl white. Laura has been riding since 1997, and like me, prefers vintage motorcycles that are full of character. After I shed my gear, threw my hair up into a pony tail, and grabbed my iPhone off of the bike, we entered into their factory which was definitely in its embryonic stage.

It was apparent after just a few minutes that Laura and Scott had not only done extensive research and were highly educated on all aspects of garment manufacturing, but they also had enormous passion for the task they were getting ready to undertake. When I asked Laura why they decided to design and manufacture women’s motorcycle apparel, she answered, “It’s a chronic frustration among many women who ride. Where are our options for fit, function, and fashion? In 2013, Scott and I decided to investigate the possibility of solving that problem by starting our own line of apparel. Worse for Wear would certainly not be the first company to make motorcycle apparel for women, but having more options means more women can find gear to fit their bodies and lifestyles. We knew we wanted to manufacture in the U.S., and we knew we would be digging into an industry with a steep learning curve. I’d been sewing since I was 13, and Scott was no stranger to it either, but building a U.S. based apparel manufacturing facility from scratch was a bit intimidating, to say the least.”

When I inquired as to what kind of preparations they had to undergo to get to where they were, she explained, “We spent months learning about types of fabrics and styles best suited for high-speed, high-risk activities like motorcycling. We pored over dozens of different types of sewing machines, learning which ones worked best to create seam types that were least likely to burst on impact if you’re in an accident. We measured impact and abrasion resistance of different fabrics and threads by building our own version of the testing machine specified in the European Standard for testing protective clothing for professional motorcycle riders (SRPS EN 13595-1:2008). After more than a year of testing and research, we decided to move forward with our dream of making motorcycle apparel for women in a U.S. based manufacturing facility of our own design. We sold our home in Austin, Texas and moved east to Richmond, Virginia, buying a mixed-use commercial building to double as our factory and our home. We’re currently working through the final stages of the development process on a few different products that we plan to have available for sale on our website and our brick and mortar retail space in Spring 2016.”

Upon hearing that information I just had to ask for a tour of their building that was full of historic character. The factory portion of the building held all sorts of high-tech looking equipment that I had never seen before, but upon inquiry, Laura and Scott were quick to give me a demo with pieces of sample fabric. I was fascinated by the process, and immediately had faith that the dynamic duo will create great riding apparel for us lady riders. After the factory tour, we padded our way up a cool circular staircase to the second floor. Their plans for this floor include office space for Worse for Wear, as well as leasing out office space to help supplement their bottom line. It was currently being used as their temporary living quarters and storage space. While touring this area, I really started to get a sense of Laura and Scott’s personalities and could feel that they were overflowing with character.

Upon completion, the third level of the building will be a posh yet cozy apartment flat where the couple and their furry four-legged children will reside. It’s a stunning historical space which they will make their home through the labor of their own hands. They have hired an architect to draft the design of the interior of the building, but Scott and Laura are doing all of the remodeling themselves. We are talking about a seriously grassroots company here. I was highly impressed and so thrilled that I made the detour on my motorcycle journey to view the bare beginnings of this sure-to-be masterpiece which will be the home of Worse for Wear and its founders.

So, what should we expect out of Worse for Wear in the spring? Laura explained, “Our initial product offering this spring includes well-fitting, abrasion resistant apparel that looks good both on and off the bike. We’re concentrating our efforts on abrasion resistant jeans that fit both when you’re standing up and sitting down. The cut is slightly higher in the waist to eliminate gapping at the back when you’re crouched over your bike. They include removable CE Approved armor in the knees and hips. We’re targeting sizes from Petite to Tall in length, along with a wide range of sizes through the waist and hips. Sizing will be realistic – based on your actual measurements – so you won’t have to guess which ‘vanity’ size is supposed to fit you. We’re doing all of the things we wish the rest of the women’s apparel companies had been doing for years – being truthful and transparent about fit and sizing. Right now, it’s just Scott and me doing all of the design, sourcing, cutting, sewing, quality control, order fulfillment, customer service, and machine maintenance, which means we can control every aspect of production. Soon we’ll be hiring additional staff to help make the products so that the business can grow. We’ve been studying lean manufacturing methods to increase efficiency and happiness of our employees and cut down on operating costs. You can never be prepared for every possible contingency, but with the love and support of our fellow riders in the motorcycling community, I feel like we’ll be able to handle it.” I, for one, am ecstatic about the launch of Worse for Wear and plan to try out a pair of their sassy, stylish riding jeans in the near future. You can be sure I’ll tell you all about it, too.

Not long after saying my “goodbyes” to Laura and Scott and saddling up on my pearly white steed, I was out of Richmond and right into the torrential downpour that lasted for hours. Upon arrival in my hotel room for the night (after I left a noticeable trail of water right to the bathroom where I exited my soggy gear and entered a hot shower), I felt pleased and fortunate that I detoured to Richmond. Taking that alternate route not only brought me to another level of respect for the elements while motorcycling, but it also allowed me to experience two people’s vision and dream coming to life…a dream that will surely be celebrated by many of my female compadres on the hunt for really great women’s riding gear. Welcome, Worse for Wear! 💋 💋

(Contact info for Worse for Wear: http://worsewear.com; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: @worsewear; Phone: 804-433-3855; Email: info@worsewear.com)

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